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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 417-430
 Header Item Hospital Appointments Status
 Header Item Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme
 Header Item Accident and Emergency Departments
 Header Item Medical Card Eligibility
 Header Item Home Help Service
 Header Item Alcohol Sales Legislation
 Header Item Mental Health Services Provision
 Header Item Drugs Payment Scheme
 Header Item General Practitioner Services Provision
 Header Item Medical Card Applications
 Header Item Drug Trials
 Header Item Hospital Appointments Status
 Header Item Medical Card Applications

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 906 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 101 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 417-430

Hospital Appointments Status

 417. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when a person (details supplied) in County Donegal will receive a scan in Letterkenny University Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6553/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The scheduling of appointments for patients is a matter for the hospital to which the patient has been referred. Should a patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he or she should take the matter up with the consultant and the hospital involved. In relation to the specific case raised, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly. If you have not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days please contact my Private Office and my officials will follow the matter up.

Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme

 418. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar why persons who contact the independent symphysiotomy redress scheme receive answers to their inquiries from officials in his Department, given that the symphysiotomy payment scheme is an independent scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6556/16]

 435. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the legal basis for allowing the assessor of the symphysiotomy payment scheme to destroy copies of applicants' records and to contact the applicants directly, bypassing their solicitors, for consent on this issue [6641/16]

 436. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar to provide a public statement regarding the records submitted by applicants to the symphysiotomy payments scheme, given the contradictory statements from the scheme and from his Department, when the scheme does not return the forms and asking if the applicant wants the documents shredded or returned. [6642/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 418, 435 and 436 together.

The Surgical Symphysiotomy Scheme commenced in November 2014 and has been running very well since then with 578 applications accepted for consideration under the Scheme. The Scheme is independent and has regularly posted updates on its website, which clearly set out its position in relation to the records obtained for the purpose of making awards to women affected by symphysiotomy. My Department has been directing people to the Scheme's website, but queries continue to be made to the Department for confirmation of the situation regarding the records. The Scheme's administrators have also informed my officials that the Assessor to the Scheme has written to the Deputy answering any questions posed relating to the records.

The Scheme has also informed my officials that hospital records received by the Scheme were copy documents and any medical reports obtained by the applicant’s solicitor in support of a claim for significant disability were also copy documents. The Scheme did not receive any originals of these records and the original documents remain in the hospitals’ records storage, local and national archives and in GP offices. Contrary to recent reports in the media, it is important to note that the integrity of applicants' original records is not affected in any way by receipt of copy documents by the Scheme for the purpose of carrying out assessments.

Over the last few weeks the Scheme has been writing to each applicant regarding her records and 88% of the women concerned have replied to date. The Scheme is cognisant of an applicant’s right to privacy protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and in line with this will ensure that documents containing personal information are not returned to anyone other than the woman herself.

It is important to note that the Assessor to the Scheme received these copy records for the purpose of determining awards to women who met the criteria of the Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme only. The Assessor is not at liberty to hold the records, or to request that they be archived, for any other purpose. The Data Protection Commissioner has confirmed that data may only be used for the purpose for which it was supplied and for no other purpose. No documentation will be confidentially disposed of until the work of the Scheme has been completed and every effort will be made to contact women who have not yet replied to the Assessor to ensure their wishes regarding their personal records are respected.

Accident and Emergency Departments

 419. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar to convene a national crisis meeting with all relevant stakeholders to address the crisis in accident and emergency departments, particularly in respect of the number of patients on trolleys; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6565/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Emergency Department Taskforce Implementation Group has met on a regular basis during 2015 and into 2016, and is due to meet on the 18th April 2016. The Group has been overseeing initiatives to address ED overcrowding and ED performance, particularly over this peak winter period.

During 2015, additional funding of €117 million was provided to the HSE to relieve ED overcrowding pressures. This funding has supported initiatives to expand hospital capacity with 358 additional beds opened or reopened, reduce the number of hospital attendances by expanding community intervention team services and increasing the availability of community hospitals, and support timely patient discharge from hospital by reducing the wait time for Fair Deal funding to no more than 4 weeks, providing additional transitional care places, public community beds and home care packages.

Since the beginning of 2016, the HSE has reported an increase in emergency department (ED) activity in comparison with the same period last year. Overall, there has been an increase of 7.5% in patient attendances. Despite sustained increase in attendances, the total year to date number of patients waiting on trolleys at 8am each morning shows a marginal increase of 1%.

In preparation for the expected surge in demand for emergency care, which usually arises around the Easter period, Hospital Groups, in conjunction with Community Healthcare Organisations, put in place preparedness plans for the holiday period. Measures implemented included optimising discharges in advance of the weekends, strengthening the senior decision making presence at wards and in Emergency Departments, increased diagnostics at the weekends and securing staff to open overflow areas. As a result of these measures, the ED performance over the Easter period was favourable compared with 2015.

  Question No. 420 answered with Question No. 412.

Medical Card Eligibility

 421. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar to review an application for a medical card by a person (details supplied) in County Donegal on the grounds that the person is entitled, along with a spouse and children, to retain a medical card for three years on taking up employment under section 5.1 of the Health Service Executive guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6573/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has recently issued to Oireachtas members.

If the Deputy has not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days, please contact my Private Office who will follow up the matter with them.

Home Help Service

 422. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in County Cork under the home help scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6579/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As this is a service matter it has been referred to the Health Service Executive for direct reply. If you have not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days please contact my Private Office and they will follow up the matter with them.

Alcohol Sales Legislation

 423. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if and when he notified the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 to the European Commission under Directive (EU) 2015/1535; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6580/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The European Commission was formally notified on the 22 January 2016 of the intention to introduce the proposed legislation on minimum unit pricing, labelling and control of marketing and advertising under the Technical Standards and Regulations Directive (Directive EU 2015/1535). The standstill period runs until 28 April 2016.

  Article 8(1) of the Directive requires draft technical regulations to be notified immediately to the Commission. Article 9(1) provides that Member States shall "postpone the adoption of a draft technical regulation for three months from the date of receipt by the Commission of the communication referred to in Article 8(1)."

   The standstill period is extended for a further period of three months in the event that the Commission or another Member State delivers, within the first three months, a detailed opinion that the measure envisaged may create obstacles to the free movement of goods within the internal market. The Member State concerned must then report to the Commission on the action it proposes to take on such detailed opinions. The Commission shall comment on that reaction.

Mental Health Services Provision

 424. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will provide emergency psychiatric assistance to a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6581/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the issue raised by the Deputy relates to an individual case, this is a service matter for the Health Service Executive. I have asked the HSE to look into the particular matter raised and to reply directly to the Deputy. If you have not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days please contact my Private Office and they will follow up the matter with them.

Drugs Payment Scheme

 425. Deputy Bobby Aylward Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar to immediately and fully reimburse a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny for the drug Fampyra under the Health Service Executive's primary care reimbursement service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6590/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar As the particular issue raised relates to an individual case, I have arranged for the question to be referred to the HSE for direct reply to you. If you have not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days please contact my Private Office and they will follow up the matter with them.

General Practitioner Services Provision

 426. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans to fully restore the practice support grants for general practitioners; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6593/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Under the General Medical Services (GMS) contract, general practitioners (GPs) are reimbursed by the HSE's Primary Care Reimbursement Service for a range of services they provide to medical card and GP visit card holders. In 2014, the HSE made payments of €428 million to GPs for the provision of general medical services for about 2 million people. The current fee and allowance rates are set out in the Health Professionals (Reduction of Payments to General Practitioners) Regulations 2013, S.I. 277/2013, which are available on-line at:

http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2013/en/si/0277.html.

  As a consequence of the severe difficulties arising from the economic and fiscal crisis of recent years, it was necessary between 2009 and 2013 to reduce certain payments to health professions, including GPs under the GMS contract. These changes were given effect under the terms of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) Act 2009. These reductions applied to all fees and allowances, including payments for special items.

  It is not possible, within the fiscal space currently available to Government and the requirement to manage public expenditure in accordance with the EU's Stability and Growth Pact, to reverse FEMPI measures in one year. To do so would contravene EU fiscal rules and reverse the progress made in rescuing the economy from financial collapse which it recently faced. The Government has provided for the gradual unwinding of the FEMPI measures under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2015. Economic progress and fiscal consolidation in the years ahead will determine the scope and timing of the possible scale-back of the financial emergency measures.

Medical Card Applications

 427. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of an application by a person (details supplied) in Dublin 8 for a medical card; and when the person will receive a decision. [6598/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has recently issued to Oireachtas members.

If the Deputy has not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days, please contact my Private Office who will follow up the matter with them.

Drug Trials

 428. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he is investigating the use of Cannabidiol, CBD, for the possible treatment of Dravet syndrome (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [6605/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Products for which medicinal claims are made, or which contain certain substances likely to have pharmacological actions on the body are considered as medicinal products. There are no authorised medicinal products in Ireland containing CBD licensed for the treatment of Dravet syndrome or any other form of epilepsy.

Under European and Irish legislation, before a medicine can be placed on the Irish market, the manufacturer must seek an authorisation from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) or, in the case of certain medicinal products, the European Medicines Agency (EMA). A determination on an application for authorisation of a medicine is based on a rigorous scientific assessment of the application against the criteria of safety, quality, efficacy, legal and regulatory requirements.

Before a medicinal product can be authorised for use, it must go through the clinical trials process to ensure that it is safe and effective, and also that the quality of the product is sufficient. The publicly accessible EU Clinical Trials Register of trials being conducted in the EU and European Economic Area currently lists 6 trials authorised investigating CBD in various forms of epilepsy. There are currently no clinical trials using CBD taking place in Ireland.

Hospital Appointments Status

 429. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of a hospital appointment for a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6612/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The scheduling of appointments for patients is a matter for the hospital to which the patient has been referred. Should a patient's general practitioner consider that the patient's condition warrants an earlier appointment, he or she should take the matter up with the consultant and the hospital involved. In relation to the specific case raised, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly. If you have not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days please contact my Private Office and my officials will follow the matter up.

Medical Card Applications

 430. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Health Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar why a medical card was withdrawn from a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; if it will be reinstated as a matter of urgency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6622/16]

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Health Service Executive has been asked to examine this matter and to reply to the Deputy as soon as possible.

The Health Service Executive operates the General Medical Services scheme, which includes medical cards and GP visit cards, under the Health Act 1970, as amended. It has established a dedicated contact service for members of the Oireachtas specifically for queries relating to medical cards and GP visit cards, which the Deputy may wish to use for an earlier response. Contact information has recently issued to Oireachtas members.

If the Deputy has not received a reply from the HSE within 15 working days, please contact my Private Office who will follow up the matter with them.


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